10 and 3. Read it again. Say it alound. 10 and 3. In the Pac 12. 10 and 3. Remember it.
Utah took another step in the right direction in 2015, winning 10 games, going 6 and 3 in conference, beating both in-state rivals, winning their bowl game, and ascending as high as number 3 in the rankings. If that's not a successful season for a team that most had pegged between 8 and 9 wins, then Utah football is going to have a tough time living up to the new standards being set.
Oregon State has been in what is now called the Pac 12 and they have exactly two seasons of 10+ wins. One of those years took a 14 game season to get to that 10th win. Washington State? Just 5. UCLA? 9. Mighty Oregon? They didn't win 10 games in a season until the year 2000. Winning 10 games is hard. Winning 10 games in this conference is really hard. How good was the Pac 12 this year? They sent a record 10 teams to bowl games. No Conference in the history of college football had every done that before. The Pac 12 did in 2015. Utah good this year, and the heights they reached and accomplishments back that up.
So, let's recap some of the top accomplishments:
1) Pac 12 South Co-Champions
2) Beat a 9 win Oregon team by 42 points in the most difficult venue to win in the conference
3) Beat a 9 win Michigan team
4) Beat a 9 win BYU team
5) Beat 7 teams that went bowling
6) Placed 7 players on either the first or second team all conference team
7) Had a major award winner for the second straight season (Tom Hackett winning the Ray Guy Award)
8) Won their 12th bowl game in 13 attempts since 1999
9) Reached #3 in the polls, the highest regular season ranking in school history.
10) 10 wins for just the seventh time in school history
That's not a bad list of accomplishments for a team that was picked to finish 5th in it's own division.
Yes, the disappointment from some fans is understandable as the potential for a bigger season was there. What the first half of the season ended up doing was creating an expectation that was both unrealistic and unreasonable for Utah to maintain. Utah was very good for 6 weeks, but injuries are part of the game, and once they started to mount for the Utes, we realized that the overall team depth was not at the level we may have thought when the season started.
Could the offense have been better? Yes, but Utah is what they are, and that's a team that runs the ball and doesn't turn it over. They're still looking for playmakers, but the lack of them on offense negated their ability to be creative week to week as the confidence in the players to execute wasn't high enough to take the risk. If Utah wants to take that next step though, they'll need to start taking those risks, but they'll need the playmakers to do it. It's somewhat of a chicken or the egg argument, and with the recruiting level elevating slightly, those players may be coming soon.
So, despite the late season swoon, the difficulty in watching the offense when the ball wasn't in the hands of Booker or Covey, and the near collapse against BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, 2015 will go down as one of the best seasons in the history of Utah football. The further and further we get from individual games and seasons, the more we forget what happened and tend to look at things as a whole. As a whole, 2015 was a good year for the Utes, and that's what we should and will remember.